Barcelona edge out Roma in gripping first-leg encounter

Maria Pilar Leon of Barcelona celebrates with teammates.
María Pilar León of Barcelona celebrates with teammates after scoring in the UEFA Women's Champions League against FC Rosengard. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

A first-half strike from Salma Paralluelo guided Barcelona to a 1-0 away victory over Roma in the first leg of their Women’s Champions League quarter-final tie.

Even before a ball was kicked in anger, it was clear that the Stadio Olimpico was playing host to a historic game. The majority of the 39,454 in attendance – a record crowd for a women’s football match in Italy – gave a spine-tingling rendition of Roma’s club anthem, reassuring their players that they were not going into battle alone.

Barcelona Barrage

An intimidating atmosphere did little to upset the visitors though, as they quickly settled into their stride. Mapi León fired the ball into the side netting before Paralluelo forced Camelia Ceasar to make a fine stop. Just before the 20-minute mark, Ceasar was required once again to deny Caroline Graham Hansen at the near post.

It was then the turn of Lucy Bronze to head wide from a corner, while Aitana Bonmatí tested Ceasar with a low shot. The Barcelona pressure refused to relent, and their persistence paid off just after the half-hour mark. Paralluelo collected the ball on the edge of the box, before unleashing a clinical strike into the bottom corner. Roma appealed for a foul in the build-up, but Paralluelo’s first UWCL goal stood, ensuring the visitors took a slender lead into the break.

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Visitors push for a second

Following the half-time interval, Jonatan Giráldez’s side began their search for a second goal. Asisat Oshoala’s shot was thwarted by the inspired Ceasar. Moments later, the Nigeria international was denied once again. Oshoala’s downward header was superbly pushed over the bar by the Romanian goalkeeper.

Against the run of play, Roma went agonisingly close to finding an equaliser. Mapi León’s last-ditch challenge ensured Valentina Giacinti’s close-range strike looped over the Barcelona goal. It was then the turn of Elena Linari to pull off a goal-saving block. The Roma defender was in the right place at the right time to clear Oshoala’s header off the line.

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Roma fight back

Roma continued to carry a greater attacking threat in the second period. Substitute Benedetta Glionna forced Sandra Paños into action with a driven effort. Emilie Haavi was then presented with a glorious opportunity, but her left-foot strike was well-saved by Paños.

As the contest entered the final 10 minutes, Roma were clearly growing in confidence. Former Barcelona player Andressa Alves fired just inches wide, before Manuela Giugliano tried her luck from distance, forcing Paños to tip the ball over.

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The Barcelona goalkeeper pulled off another crucial stop in stoppage time. Giacinti found herself in a promising one-on-one situation, but the Italy international could not find a way past Paños.

After being forced to hold on towards the end, Barcelona will travel home with a precious 1-0 lead. The second leg will take take place at the Camp Nou next Wednesday.

Roma: Ceasar, Bartoli (Di Guglielmo, 66′), Wenninger, Linari, Minami, Andressa, Greggi (Losada, 61′), Giugliano, Serturini (Glionna, 61′), Haavi, Giacinti

Barcelona: Paños, Bronze (Torrejón, 92′), Paredes, Leon, Rolfö, Bonmatí, Walsh, Guijarro (Engen, 78′), Graham Hansen (Vilamala, 92′), Paralluelo (Crnogorčević, 78′), Oshoala (Geyse, 66′)

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